Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we decided to look into how Asian Americans handle breast cancer. We were shocked by what we discovered.
For years now, Asians have been comforted by the fact that we have the lowest rate of breast cancer in the United States. Unfortunately, this assurance may be the very thing that hinders us from taking the necessary precautions.
Studies from both the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) have confirmed that Asian/Pacific Islanders have the lowest breast cancer rates.
Although this is true, a number of things are not taken into consideration:
There are various types of Asians.
It is not a good idea to assume you’re safe from breast cancer simply because you’re Asian. In fact, the statistics greatly differ once we take a step closer. According to womenshealth.gov, Japanese American women have the highest rate of breast cancer among Asian Americans. Furthermore, breast cancer is the leading cause of death for Filipino women. Clearly, there are technicalities within the broad term “Asian” which should be paid attention to.
Our numbers are increasing.
Sure, we have the lowest rate of breast cancer and breast cancer deaths now, but that may be changing. Our rates are increasing faster than any other ethnic group. From 1988-2005, we’ve increased approximately 1.2% every year.
Some of us are not as safe as our parents and grandparents.
According to sampan.org, “Immigrant Asian women who have been living in the United States for 10 years have an 80 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer than their newly arrived A&PI immigrant counterparts.”
We develop breast cancer at a younger age.
Compared to the other ethnic groups, we develop cancer at an earlier age, but we don’t know to address it earlier. In fact, many of us don’t address it at all.
Asian Americans are the least likely to ever get a mammogram.
Although Asian Americans need to take just as much precaution, we have the lowest rate of screenings. Is it because it’s taboo in our culture to discuss this issue? Is it because of the misconception that we’re relatively safe from breast cancer? Either way, there is clearly a lack of breast health/breast cancer education, screening and treatment among Asian American women.
Studies confirm that only 62% of Asian American women 40 and older have had a mammogram in the past two years. This is still the lowest percentage compared to every other ethnic community in America.
Some barriers to breast cancer screening include:
-Lack of access to care (such as lack of a local (or easy to get to) mammography center or -Lack of transportation to a mammography center)
-Lack of a usual health care provider
-Lack of a recommendation from a provider to get mammography screening
-Lack of awareness of breast cancer risks and screening methods
-Cultural and language differences